Chinese Newspaper And Citizens Find Spyware Purchase Orders On Dozens Of Police And Local Government Web Sites

from the investigating-the-investigators dept

It is hardly news that the Chinese authorities spy on their citizens, but a story in Global Voices adds a couple of fascinating twists to the story. The Beijing Times newspaper discovered that a district police department's Web site had a purchase order for surveillance software:

Beijing Times found the purchase order on the website of the Wenzhou district police department, took a screen capture of the order, and posted it on social media with a brief explanation of its origins. The purchase order includes two items: software for injecting trojans onto mobile phones, and a trojan for spying on mobile phone conversations, text messages, and image messages on Android and for jail breaking an iPhone. The first item cost RMB 100,000 yuan (approximately US $16,000) and the second item costed RMB 4,900 yuan (approximately US $800).
The fact that the purchase order for such a sensitive item was uploaded to the police site seems odd -- perhaps surveillance software is now so run-of-the-mill and pervasive that the police no longer regard its use as controversial. The other interesting aspect of this story is that Beijing Times was digging around on the police Web site in the first place, and that having found something rather interesting, decided to publish it, rather than discreetly forget about it. Even better, this rather bold action inspired others to get digging for similar purchase orders. Remarkably, they found some, including this:
a software tool that collects messages from overseas social media including Twitter, Facebook and Google plus. Authorities in Taian city purchased data collection software and content posting software intended to help “counter public opinion” on nine major social media platforms, both in China and overseas.
Again, no real surprises there, but it's good to have more detailed information about who's using which surveillance tool, and for what purpose.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+


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